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Cokethorpe School: rewarding Olympian effort

When watching the Olympics, most people sit back, enjoy the spectacle and revel in learning about an obscure sport that rarely enjoys the limelight. Teachers are different
"Young people are often constrained by the ‘I can’t’ mentality"

For teachers, the Olympics is a gold mine of assembly material as lessons abound in the importance of endeavour, focused effort, sacrifice and determination.

Behind every athlete is a remarkable story of commitment towards a single goal, the seemingly effortless execution obscuring the years of relentless training. Max Whitlock, moments after winning his second gold medal, made the point that his four years of training had been reduced to a single minute of performance.

The parallels between sporting and academic endeavour cannot be over emphasised. In school, years of learning are reduced to a couple of hours of assessment. At Cokethorpe, we talk about students aiming to beat their ‘personal best’, measuring success as something unique to them rather than comparing their performance with others. Whatever the discipline, we all start and end our journey at different places; we can’t all be Usain Bolt or Laura Trott.

Young people are often constrained by the ‘I can’t’ mentality, and parents may inadvertently support this by sharing stories of their own academic struggles (how often are the words ‘I was never very good at Maths either’ uttered?). Schools can be equally culpable by encouraging young people to play it safe in order to avoid the ignominy of getting something ‘wrong’.

When Max Whitlock got onto the Pommel Horse, he was able to succeed because he had confronted failure through his training and learnt from it. This is a valuable lesson for students to learn; achieving your personal best is a complex balance of sacrifice, hard work and dogged determination in the face of adversity. At Cokethorpe, we aim to prepare young people for this reality, not shelter them from it.

- Mr Andrew Uglow, Director of Studies, Cokethorpe School


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